What is the History Engine?

The History Engine aims to enhance historical education and research for teachers, students, and scholars alike. It allows undergraduate professors to introduce a more collaborative and creative approach to history into their classrooms, while maintaining rigorous academic standards. The core of the History Engine project are student-written episodes—individual snippets of daily life throughout history from the broadest international and national events to the simplest local occurrences. Students construct these episodes from one or more primary sources found in university and local archives, using historical context gleaned from secondary sources to round out their analysis. Students then post their entries in our cumulative database, giving their classmates and anyone else who's interested the opportunity to read and benefit from their work.

The History Engine also gives students a more intimate experience with the process of history. Participants who work with the History Engine project learn the craft of an historian: they examine primary documents, place these documents in a larger historical context using secondary sources, and prepare cogent analysis of their sources for the public eye. These students go into the project fully aware that future classrooms will engage with and critique their work.

Finally, the History Engine provides a way for professors to take advantage of digital technology in their classrooms. The cumulative database provides all the easy-access and searchability of other websites, but also subjects its contents to a careful academic screening process from insructors as well as librarians, archivists, and teaching assistants. Because only registered students can contribute, each episode is carefully vetted for content and accuracy. Therefore, the contents of the History Engine also provide a previously untapped resource for researchers and academics in general. Student episodes draw from a wide variety of primary documents in both small and large collections from around the country, many of which have yet to appear in scholarly manuscripts.

Interested in joining the project? Register your school.